If you want to make sense of the latest confusing news out of North Korea--in this case, Pyongyang's claim to have mastered the difficult process of uranium enrichment, giving them a complement to their plutonium program as a means to developing nuclear weapons--then you should read the story I wrote recently about this prospect and how it could complicate the Obama team's dealings with the Hermit Kingdom. Whether or not the Norks have a uranium problem has been a long-running--and politically-charged--debate within the intelligence community.
My new print story this week looks in part at the tensions between the Obama administration and the military over whether to send more troops to Afghanistan this fall. Central to that debate, of course, is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who in the past has fretted that the American military footprint could reach a counterproductive size if it alienates the local population with its sheer intrusiveness. Yesterday, Gates hedged that point, saying he might accept a larger force size so long as the U.S.
In June, when four Uighur detainees at Guantánamo were released to Bermuda, the media’s portrayal of their story served as both distraction and palliative: Articles in many papers were written as though the United States had rescued members of an oppressed minority in China and delivered them to a tropical paradise.
With the Afghan elections over, accusations of voter fraud are being made by President Hamid Karzai's top challenger, Abdullah Abdullah. The alleged abuses range from reporting higher turnout, to ballot stuffing, to sympathetic generals using their own houses as polling stations. Of course, such shenanigans are hardly new in the history of voting. Click through this slideshow for a tour of some notable election frauds.
I know I've already made my point, but I remain fascinated by Soviet savagery in Afghanistan, and America's wholly different moral and strategic approach there. Today, there's an (understandable) outcry whenever a U.S. airstrike targeting Taliban fighters also kills a handful of civilians--as when an early August raid left four civilians dead near Kandahar, stirring local outrage and wide media coverage.
Matt Yglesias and Michael Cohen, both of whom have been asking very tough and smart questions about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, doubt that our copious care in avoiding civilian casulaties--as opposed to the Soviets' savage tactics--could make the difference between victory and defeat there. Quoth Matt: Maybe. That said, I don’t really think it’s a fair comparison. The Soviets had to fight a Mujahedeen force that was receiving open and full-throated support from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, plus substantial financial and material assistance from the United States.
Money quotes from a Pentagon presser this afternoon with the Defense Secretary and Joint Chiefs chairman: “The notion that you can conduct a purely kind of counterterrorist campaign and do it from a distance simply does not accord with reality,” Mr. Gates said, adding that successful methods required cooperation with local law enforcement, the use of internal security and intelligence. Admiral Mullen added: “There’s no way to defeat al Qaeda with just that approach.”
A presidential election marred by allegations of fraud, rising casualties of American soldiers, even a few disturbing discoveries about the civilians hired to guard our embassy there--we figured it was about time to talk to terrorism expert Peter Bergen, who was in Afghanistan last month, to get his take on the situation there and what it will take to improve it. TNR: What is your sense of the election’s validity? Bergen: Of course there was fraud--the question is one of scale. I was there for the 2004 election and there were claims of fraud at that time.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad like to blame the uprising in Iran on outside influences. They particularly like to point their fingers at the British and the Americans, along with a requisite nod in the direction of the Zionists--a time-honored pretext for avoiding blame for discontent in their country.
It wasn't until I reported my print piece on how much Barack Obama's foreign policy--from closing Gitmo to Iran to the global economy-- depends on the Saudis that I appreciated the influence Riyadh has over its Sunni ally Pakistan. One illustration of that: Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani military dictator pushed from office last year, flew on a Saudi jet to Riyadh this week to meet with Saudi King Abdullah, in what regional news outlets are suggesting could be part of a Saudi-brokered deal to spare Musharraf, now residing in London, from treason charges back home.